Monday, May 22, 2006

Time Changes Everything

The Sterling Cinema Bombay (Mumbai)
This post is inspired by Aditi who wrote about an era bygone with the conversion of the Sterling movie theatre in Bombay, as it is being converted to a (oh the horror!) a multiplex. Having grown up in Bombay and being a fan of Hollywood/English movies since I was a kid this news and Aditi’s post brought up a number of memories related to Sterling and other theatres in South Bombay that always showed Hollywood movies, so a hat tip to ya pal.

There are/were (not sure what the situation is now) about 6 movie theatres mostly concentrated in South Bombay that always showed Hollywood movies. These were not necessarily the best that Hollywood offered, but to fans like me they were better than nothing. One could also get bootleg copies of these but they were horrible to watch and we had no VCR anyways. I lived at the other end of Bombay in the North so it was about an hour long ride on the commuter train for a weekend at the movies.

It was a cool thing to do then a lot of the cool places/people/spots were all in South Bombay not to mention the cool women. Having gone to school in the Northern burbs, the girls from South Bombay seemed different more chic, urbane and/or sophisticated (or so this one time teenage thought). I caught the movie bug thanks to my dad taking me to a few English movies, they were just do different than the song and dance extravaganza that Bollywood offered. To the impressionable mind of yours truly it was truly a different world. I was around 15 when my parents started letting me go see movies on my own. I would usually identify the movie I would go to from the newspaper and tell them and I was off on my own with the standard assurances about being careful with strangers and all.

One of the earliest movies I can remember going to was the first Star Wars movie that had been running at Sterling for about 25 weeks in a row, for an English movie that was a record of sorts. I remember having to go with the hopes of being able to buy a ticket well in advance of the movie, only to have my hopes dashed. I did not even have enough money on me to think about buying a ticket from scalpers. Trust me the morality of it did not enter my teenaged mind/brain at that point.;) So I ended up buying a ticket for a week later.

Sterling was probably the nicest of these theatres too, with a decent sound system. I remember having gone to see apocalypse now, but I think I was too young to truly appreciate how remarkable the movie is. I have seen it since from an entirely different prism since that of the brutality of war and the evil that man is capable of inflicting upon his own. I remember sitting next to some girls who were horrified at the final scene where Martin Sheen kills Kurtz (the character played by Marlon Brando) intercut with scenes of the slaughter of a buffalo. I was wondering what the big deal was (raging teen hormones and me trying to be cool n all).

The other memory is that of seeing Nine To Five immediately after our gruelling finals. This was a few years later and I had gone with a few friends. We were desperate to see any movie to sort of de-stress from it all. Sterling was showing this, with the only seats available in the front row. Sterling is no multiplex so you are talking about stress for the neck having to look up at that huge screen all those 90 minutes or so. What the heck we thought, we have to do this, and we did! We had a fun filled few hours and we were probably the noisiest group of people at the movie. I have to say having to look up at Dolly Parton who is well endowed more than made up for the neck cramps! I have to say that I am not a fan of big breasts but that was then.

When I was dating A, we went to Sterling several more times it was our way to spend some quality time together from the madhouse that Bombay can be. A few years ago I was in Bombay on my own and with nothing else to do, I decided to go and watch The Matrix on my own. It was fun watching it on that huge screen but mostly college kids around. They had tiered seating and you often got the best view from the balcony. I almost had soft drinks spill over my back as the college kids behind me were up to something else.

Sterling was also located within 3 blocks of 2 other movie theatres (New Empire and New Excelsior(?)). Not sure if these are still around. They also had English movies but Sterling often seemed to have the better releases. I remember being turned away from and R-rated feature (they called them Adult in India) at New Empire because the guy at the box office thought we were underage ( which of course we were and no amount of pleading helped).

Sterling also had decent restaurants around selling good, cheap Indian fast food. I remember a place next door that used to be called Waikiki, there was Kamath’s and an Irani restaurant too. Not to mention the browsing along D.N. Road at the "foreign" and other wares sold by street vendors taking up most of the sidewalks.

So Sterling has special memories for me and indeed to see it go the way of the multiplex is sort of sad. But it probably is the way to go and might be more profitable? I wonder how long before Eros and Regal go that way?

One of the things I want to do when I visit Bombay next is to take lots of pictures, something I have always wanted to do but never found time due to the short visits and other obligations. Next time I hope..


Aditi said...

Wow, I didnt realize you spent that much time in mumbai. Lets see new empire and new excelsior are still around. The area around Sterling now houses a mcdonalds and a pizza hut not to mention several coffee shops.
Ohh I saw Speed from the second row at Sterling, not a good movie to watch with your neck craned, they moved so fast sometimes that things blurred from the vision but it was fun nevertheless.

Ethan said...

Nice trip down memory lane Karmic
By the way..

I am tagging u to put up ur childhood pic with a recent one..

Mine's up already..

karmic_jay said...

Aditi I recall seeing the McD the last time I was there.
Ethan thanks. As for the tag, I will put up my picture when I have it scanned. So it might be a few days but will do it.

Mridula said...

I have had my fill of movie halls during my Ph.D. days in Kanpur. But paan filled halls do not evoke the kind of reflections you have here.

opinionatedinjerzee said...

hmmn... cant say much since i have never been to india.. but just wanted to comment anyways!!

Dadoji said...

That is wonderful. Here is something I remembered and wanted to share.

This was when I was in Jr. college. I had seen Back to the Future and had liked it a lot. Sterling was playing FX Murder by Illusion and we wanted to see it. So, me and couple of friends decided to catch the first afternoon show. Back to the Future was the matinee so I made the other two join me - I wanted to watch it again you see. So, we watched BTTF and then FxMBI. On our return, we saw Rocky IV playing at New Empire and in we went. We also thought of checking out on New Excelsior but there was a good french movie on TV at night and we all wanted to catch that so home we went. Everytime we meet, we remember that day. What movies and what fun!

karmic_jay said...

@Mridula, this might be a bit of a culture issue? Bombay being different than Kanpur I guess.

Opin.. your visits are always welcome.

Dadoji.. cool, thanks for stopping by. So you did Movie hopping ala bar hopping. I never did that. :)

Agarwaen Mormegil said...

hola senor, first timer in your blog. looks nice and he reading is also very very gooood.
now I must say. this is going to be the Way.
Older, non-profitable movie theatres are going to be converted into mutiplexes. this si happening here in Calcutta too.
there's always a degree of nostalgia attached to the process. As I think what's your'e going through.
But what's got to be got to be.

and btw, you're supporting Murphy for congress? The Cook Political report has Rep. Fitzpatrick in "Leans Repub." category I think. Will be aclose race. But you live in Delaware. How come PA-8 you care about?

karmic_jay said...

AM.. thanks for stopping by.
I agree thats the way it is gonna go. I am not that nostalgic, just brought our memories of times gone by.

The cook report is fairly reliable, but given the general anti-gop feeling in the US and the fact that Murphy is an Iraq war vet are factors that will be in Murphy's favor. I have also had a chance to listen to him at a meet of folks who hang out a one of the top liberal blogs in the US in Philly. I also like his positions on a number of issues.
As for my interest in him and not in DE, DE has had a long time moderate GOP rep. As a long time resident of DE told me the parties hace sort of ceded the lone house seat in GOP to him and the senators are democratic.
I am not sure if this is true or not. I will follow the DE race closely, but I don't believe our Congressman will be unseated. Let's see.
So how is a Calcutta native following this race (Murphy) closely? Will check out your blog tomorrow, looked at it real quick, looks cool.

shikha said...

"There is a crack in everything..that is how light comes in"..:) good post...keep smiling!

Id it is said...

Change is afterall the essence of life, and Sterling is only a building. If it weren't for change we'd never feel the passage of time!

Ameet said...

Sterling had done an excellent restoration job in the early 90s - just in time for my Junior College years. Needless to say, I have lots of memories there, including my first solo drive in the family car. Heck - I have lots of memories in that whole city!!